The Best Metal Detector for the Beach?

The Best Metal Detector for the Beach?

You’ve probably seen videos on YouTube from metal detectorists who consistently make legendary finds at the beach. These people seem to do extremely well on an almost daily basis pulling Gold and Silver out of the sand!

The first thing you’ll notice about these guys is that all of their beach-detecting spots have something in common (other than being at the beach).  Almost all of the greatest beach detecting finds are made in salty wet sand or in the saltwater itself and it’s not a coincidence!

Because the beach sand is constantly shifting and turning we find that the denser and generally more valuable items like coins, gold and silver jewellery are sinking down and ending up deeper in the sand than they began.

As you can see in the image below, heavier items generally end up down near rocks or clay at the bottom of the beach.  Often we find that the bottom of the beach gets closer as you move towards the water.  Just like a gold pan, the sand banks up on the edge but the heavier items stay very still, often remaining undisturbed for decades. 

Dense items like gold are all over the beach but are most often found near or in the water because they are generally shallower in the sand layer.


The best beach detecting spots require the best beach metal detectors

It just so happens that the best beach-detecting spots (over wet salt sand or in salt water) are also the most difficult to detect!  Without a doubt, the type of metal detector you use in these conditions will have a massive impact on your finds.

Salt water is electrically conductive, which means that most average metal detectors will think that the salt is actually metal, the average detector will then beep when scanning over the wet salty sand or in salt water.  This makes finding metal targets in salt water very hard for the average metal detector.

Traditionally most metal detectors have to be detuned (dumbed down) significantly to operate quietly in or over salt water but the best beach detectors employ specialised circuitry to eliminate the sounds and signals given from the conductive salt water!  This in turn gives us greater detection depth and sensitivity on these deeply buried valuable items.

Beach detecting is also very demanding on your equipment so a solid build quality and waterproof rating are essential for detecting in or near the salt water.

Which Detecting Technology works best at the beach?

Simply put, there are currently two main technologies used in all of the best beach detectors, Pulse Induction and Multi-Frequency are the two most popular technologies.

Multi-Frequency Detector Technology

Multi-Frequency otherwise known as Simultaneous Multi Frequency (SMF) metal detectors are regarded by many as the best beach detectors around.  With excellent detection depth through salt water and the ability to reject and ignore most iron/steel targets, we can sift through the beaches without digging too many junk items.  Most of the highly successful beach detecting YouTubers are using a multi frequency metal detector like these.

  • The LEGEND by Nokta
  • The SCORE & DOUBLE SCORE by Nokta
  • The DEUS 2 by XP
  • The EQUINOX & MANTICORE by Minelab

    Our first gold ring on our first beach hunt with The Legend by Nokta Makro

    Pulse Induction (PI) detectors

    The very deepest beach detectors use Pulse Induction (PI) technology but not all pulse induction metal detectors are extremely deep seeking (the Garrett sea hunter and the Minelab SDC2300 are examples of not so deep seeking PIs)

    PI metal detectors have the natural ability to see through minerals of all kinds to find metal targets.  Whether it’s salt water or black iron sand and rocks, PIs are the least affected by minerals in the ground making them some of the best metal detectors to use at the beach.

    Although PIs are some of the best beach detectors, they do have one massive drawback and that is, PIs have little to no form of discrimination! 

    This means you WILL be digging almost every target you detect with a PI detector on the beach.  This can be problematic at beaches where there is lots of iron/steel because many PI’s are extremely good at detecting pieces of metal at great depth.

    At this point in time, Pulse Induction metal detectors are heavier than the alternative technology.  This means slower swing speeds and possibly reduced detecting times because fatigue sets in earlier.

    Some notable, deep seeking PI detectors suitable for the beach.

  • AQ IMPULSE by Fisher
  • TDI PRO by Whites
  • ATX by Garrett

    Depth comparison of Single Frequency VS Multi-Frequency VS Powerful PI on a coin sized target in different environments

    • Single Frequency Metal Detectors are great at the beach over the dry sand but quickly lose depth when detecting over wet sand or underwater.

    • Multi-Frequency Metal Detectors like The Legend offer great detection depth in salt water environments whilst retaining their ability to accurately identify targets buried in the ground. 

      Many common unwanted targets (mainly iron/steel targets) like tent pegs, nails, screws and bobby pins can generally be avoided using this technology when hunting the beach

    • High-end Pulse Induction Metal Detectors like the TDI Pro offer the greatest detection depth in salt water environments and feature unparalleled performance in highly mineralised soils. However, they sacrifice the ability to identify targets in the ground.  These machines are best utilized in areas with less iron trash. 


    The DEUS 2's First underwater hunts, an incredible Metal Detector for the beach.


    What Makes a Great Beach Metal Detector?

    All of the best beach detectors have a few things in common, these unique qualities are essential for those beach detectorists looking to find the deepest treasures in the most difficult environments.

    1. Enhanced Salt Performance:

    The absolute most important quality of a good beach metal detector is its ability to ignore the salt content in the wet sand and sea water.  The salt in salt water interferes with the performance of most metal detectors and typically halves how deep they can detect a metal object!

    The best beach metal detectors have good performance on dry sand, in salt water and over wet sand, this is critical because most jewellery and valuable items are found around the low tide mark or in the salt water.

    When looking for a high performance beach detector, your highest priority should be to ensure your new detector employs circuitry capable of detecting through the salt water!  The two best beach detecting technologies currently available are Simultaneous Multi-Frequency (SMF) and Pulse-Induction (PI) because these are the deepest seeking beach metal detectors .  This allows you to find treasure where other detectors can not!

    Pictured above is 'The Legend', a Multi-Frequency detector by Nokta Makro

    The Legend is one of the best metal detectors for the beach because of its advanced multi-frequency beach modes, it’s unique "Stability" setting for salt water and it’s bulletproof waterproof construction.

    2. Iron Rejection accuracy

    If there is one metal we always want to avoid when detecting at the beach it would have to be iron!  

    Ferrous metal AKA steel (iron) is extremely common at some beaches and is the only metal practically guaranteed to be junk, it is especially worthless once it has been rusted at the beach.  Avoiding ferrous material altogether can save us detectorists time digging for iron junk and gives us extra time to scan and dig for non-iron targets that have a better chance of being a coin, ring or interesting metal artifact.

    At Detect-Ed, It’s our opinion that accurate discrimination between ferrous/non-ferrous metal targets in a salt water environment is a powerful beach detecting tool, it’s a particularly important feature at beaches with lots of old dock parts and rusted crab traps for example.  In our experience most Australian beaches don’t have too much of this iron junk, the most common steel item you’ll find is probably tent pegs and bobby pins but there are many exceptions!

    Multi-Frequency metal detectors are currently the most accurate machines for discriminating at the beach.  They can more easily identify iron in a saltwater environment than single-frequency detectors and they can do it at greater depths than single frequency also.  

    Although some Pulse-Induction (PI) metal detectors are claimed to be able to discriminate and identify targets as iron or non-iron they are actually very poor in this respect, in our experience this feature has limited usefulness in a beach metal detecting scenario however, very shallow or large pieces of iron can sometimes be identified by this type of detector with the right coil and settings. 

    3. Construction:

    Beach and water detecting is very physically demanding on your metal detector which is why your detectors quality and construction is especially important if you’re going to be spending any time at the beach!

    A waterproof rating or ingress protection (IP) rating is super important when using your metal detector at the beach, waterproof metal detectors are far more protected from sand, dirt and corrosive salt spray, they can also handle the occasional dunk in water when (not if) a rogue wave sneaks up on you!  There is nothing worse than taking your non waterproof metal detector for an unscheduled swim!

    The Deus 2's build quality, waterproofing, performance and warranty make it an outstanding beach and underwater metal detector. Photo is from Leigh Webber (Bondi Treasure Hunter) and Edward Burnett (Detect-Ed) "A day of underwater detecting"

    For peace of mind a good warranty on your waterproof metal detector is also highly recommended.  Beach detecting does take its toll on metal detecting equipment but the high grade manufacturers like Minelab, XP and Nokta Makro have excellent reputations for honouring the warranty on their metal detectors.

    It's important that your detector can handle changing between wetter and dryer sand as you cover the beach, the Legend (pictured) uses it's 'stability' setting to achieve this.

    4. Salt Gradient Handling:

    “Salt gradient handling” is one of the most misunderstood and therefore underestimated qualities of a solid beach metal detector, it's the ability to handle the changes in salt content found when moving between dry sand, wet sand and underwater.

    Just because a metal detector can be tuned to work over wet beach sand doesn’t mean that it can easily transition between dryer and wetter sand (less and more salty areas).

    When using less optimised detectors at the beach, detecting between varying levels of salt water will cause the detector to give confusing false signals making it impossible to determine if a target has been found or if the detector is just detecting the salt water.   However, most pulse-induction and high quality multi-frequency detectors can handle large variations in salt content without having to be re-tuned.  

    A good beach detector will have great salt gradient handling making it possible to seamlessly switch between detecting the dry sand, wet sand and in the water whilst still providing excellent detection depth in each environment.

    Interestingly, the two newest detectors to the market have stability settings to minimise salt interference and maximise depth.  The Nokta Makro Legend has a "Stability" setting and the XP DEUS II uses a "Salt Sense" setting.  These settings are extremely effective for quietening down the detectors in conductive salt water making the detectors very easy to use at the beach.


    The best beach detectors are capable of detecting through salt water at greater depths, are built in a solid waterproof housing and can preferably identify or reject iron targets accurately.

    We believe The Legend by Nokta Makro and the XP Deus 2 represents the highest quality and best detectors for beach and underwater detecting because of their great performance, depth and rugged construction.  At this point in time, it is very rare to see Pulse Induction detectors used at the beach because they are often expensive, very heavy or not built in a waterproof housing but we hope to see this change in the coming years!

    At the end of the day, the best beach metal detector is the one which you have the most fun using!  At Detect-Ed Metal Detecting we know that using a detector you believe in is more important than any amount of technology and that confidence in your metal detector is directly related to the amount of finds you will make.

    Happy Hunting, please let us know if you have any questions below!

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